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Everything You Need To Know About Becoming Dental Technician

If you’ve ever been attracted to knowing more about dentistry and you felt the urge to know everything about it, then you probably even considered to become a dentist, dental assistant or a dental technician. If you’ve wondered what does a dental technician do, what are his/her duties and the amount of their salary, you’ve come to the right place to find out everything about becoming a dental technician!

WHAT DOES DENTAL TECHNICIAN DO?

Dental laboratory technician (dental technologist) is a member of the dental team whose job is to make, design, repair and adjust dental devices and appliances. Upon prescription of a dentist, dental technician ,using molds from the patient’s teeth or oral tissue, constructs custom made restorative dental appliances. Using materials like porcelain, gold, or plastic, a dental technician creates:

  • full dentures for patients who don’t have any of the teeth
  • orthodontic appliances and braces to help straighten teeth
  • removable dentures or fixed bridges for patients who are missing some of their teeth
  • crowns which are made to restore the original size and shape of teeth
  • veneers for aesthetic reasons

After consulting with a dentist, a dental technician takes prescriptions, measures and drawings taken from the patient. After that, he/she then makes a dental impression into which is poured a gypsum dental stone to create the exact replica of patient’s teeth , a dental cast. After the cast is finished and dry, a technician can then start to custom make necessary dental appliances. Of course, being able to know all this, you would have to have an excellent knowledge of facial and dental anatomy,masticatory functions, properties of materials you construct the appliances of and a little bit of artistic talent. A variety of materials, like zirconia, ceramics, plastics, waxes, stainless steel, porcelain and metal alloys, are used in dental laboratories. The dental technician is trained to take information from a dentist and build perfect prostheses required by the patient.

Most of their work technicians spend using small hand tools which means they have to be extremely patient and accurate. Accuracy plays the key role in this type of a medical field – if a dental appliance is not made properly, it’s being sent back for repairs or even destroyed completely in order to make a perfect one from scratch. The fact that sometimes a dental laboratory and the dentist’s office are miles apart from each other only emphasizes the technician’s ability to make perfectly accurate appliances solely on the dentist’s drawings and the patient’s dental cast, without the need of further adjustments once it arrives to the dentist again. So, good practical skills and a steady hand is what is greatly appreciated in dental technicians. Being able to make 100% accurate dental prosthesis, fixed restorations, full restorations and other corrective devices is one of the most important things in being a dental technician. Bear in mind that both prosthodontics  and orthodontics rely heavily on the skills of a dental technician!

So, if you possess an extraordinary eye-hand coordination, ability to recognize the smallest differences in color and shape, pay good attention to details and have an excellent hand-operated dexterity, you can be a perfect candidate to soon become a licensed dental technician. If you enjoy working with materials and similar technology and express interest in dental and facial anatomy, you should consider becoming a dental technician and discover more about this medical fields, than it is said. Enjoying working on details and not having trouble about time consumption this work takes, this is a job for you.

WORK ENVIRONMENT OF A DENTAL TECHNICIAN

The job of a dental technician is extremely sensible and time consuming. They usually work in a well-lit rooms with good ventilation and comfortable workbenches. For fabrication of dental prostheses, they use variety of hand instruments, grinding and polishing equipment and even a computer software or designing and printing equipment. Dental technicians usually work around 40 hours per week, but the self-employed ones work even longer. There are numerous chemical hazards connected to this job. Dental technicians work with mineral acids, solvents, metal casting and porcelain baking all of which produce and release various vapors and gases. This points to the importance of MAC (Maximum allowable concentration) and the importance of wearing personal protective devices.

POSSIBLE HEALTH PROBLEMS

With the dozens of dangerous chemical compounds used in laboratory, dental technicians may even experience respiratory problems such as asthma, coughing, phlegm and skin irritation like dermatitis. The appropriate use of gloves, face masks and glasses are important factor in reducing the possibilities in health problems. In addition, dental technicians are exposed to loud noise produced by grinding, cutting and exhaust ventilation. Sitting posture during work may lead to back pain too.

MEASURES TO PROTECT WORKERS

Protective clothing should be made available to every dental technician. Hearing protection must be worn during operations when the noise reaches harmful levels. To prevent back pain and musculoskeletal disorders, use of high quality chairs is advised. Also, correct use of protective goggles with side shields and wearing appropriate gloves when handling heated objects is mandatory. Dental technicians also undergo specific medical examinations and are educated about health hazards and the prevention of early symptoms.

In conclusion, even though dental technicians work in small laboratories and they are well-lit and well-ventilated rooms, there exist a number of possible health and safety hazards. Nevertheless, if a technician follows proper safety procedures like wearing goggles, gloves and masks, there is a little risk in having health problems. Also, having regular breaks in between tasks and involving in some kind of physical exercise, back pain can be avoided as well. It is important to stick to all of the precautionary measures and the job of a dental technician can be hazard-free and enjoyable part of work. Safety is number one, so following strict guidelines and allowing yourself breaks should be a great way to prevent all of the mentioned health problems connected to this part of medical field. The sacrifice pays out and efforts are greatly appreciated and awarded accordingly.

TRAINING PROGRAMS

In order to become a dental technician, you may need to receive your education through a two-year program at a community college, university, vocational school or a technical college. Earning yourself a high-school diploma or its equivalent such as GED (general education development tests) or any other high school equivalency certificate. Aside to the formal training, there are few 4-year bachelor programs available as well.

DENTAL TECHNICIAN CERTIFICATE PROGRAMS

You should inform yourself of all the accredited dental tech programs. Following Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA), you’re able to choose between some programs that include predoctoral, advanced or allied dental education programs. Dental laboratory technology certificate programs give all of the students necessary skills to become a part of a dental team. During the two year program, students will attend some of the courses that include:

  • dental morphology
  • dental anatomy
  • dental prosthetics
  • polishing and restoration
  • dental and impression materials
  • dental ceramics
  • casting
  • orthodontic appliances
  • bridge construction

Choosing between both Certificate of Achievement program or an Associate degree provides you with a training and courses that are required to become a dental technician.

In the Certificate of Achievement program, students learn fundamental skills like how to construct prosthetic pieces such as bridges, crowns and inlays and how to use and take of the equipment.Some of the common courses include introduction to dental anatomy and morphology, ceramics used in dentistry and history of dentistry as well. To take part in this program, a student has to have a high school diploma or a GED.

Pursue of Associate degree provides more in-depth knowledge of procedures and techniques. The courses in this program are usually designed to introduce the students to equipment, procedures and materials used in dentistry. Some of the courses include dental reconstruction techniques, dental materials and anatomy, designing and constructing ceramics and history and ethics in dentistry.

Online dental technician courses are usually part of training programs that lead to either certificate or associate degree. Due to hands-on nature of this job, an important part of such courses is ability to involve in practical work using equipment and materials. These courses may only be offered on campus or as a mixture between online and in-class study. All of the students learn their skills through on-the-job training,e.g. by helping out in small laboratories. As they progress, they are involved in more complex tasks and duties.

Even though there’s no license required for becoming a dental technician, optional certification is available. Getting a certification involves passing an exam executed by the National Board for Certification in Dental Laboratory Technology. To take the test, you must have a completed accredited program and have two years of professional experience. If you have been trained on-the-job or through a non accredited program, you can take this exam after five years of work experience.

So,after graduating from your high school, you may pursue high certification for your work, depending on your desire of getting high positions in this medical field.

SALARY AND COMPENSATION 

According to Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians was around $33,950 in month of May, 2015. Wages were as follows:

  • Dental laboratory technicians……………….$37,190
  • Medical appliance technicians……………….$34,890
  • Ophthalmic laboratory technicians………..$29,860

An average dental technician earns roughly $16,35 per hour. Both geographical location, field of industry and career duration affect the payment. The difference between the highest and lowest earning technicians is almost $40,000. Since experience and skill level represent major factors in dental technician salary, beginner technicians salary income ranges between $20,945 and $31,283. That is a dental technician with up to two years experience. For dental technicians with more than 5 years work experience, payment ranges between $29,827 and $46,904. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported only a 3% increase in this field for the 2012-2022 decade, but due to an increasing number of people interested in aesthetic and cosmetic dentistry, the demand of dental technicians will probably still increase.

According to Payscale.com, dental technicians have highest earnings by working in the Medical and Diagnostics laboratory industry. Following the third place is Federal Government and slightly under it is State Government with Offices of Health practitioners and Merchant Wholesalers being below. Since the geographical location affects the annual income too, it is good to know that some of the highest paying states are Massachusetts, District of Columbia, Alaska, Montana, New York and Connecticut, while the lowest paying states involve South Dakota, Louisiana, Mississippi, West Virginia and Missouri. If you are flexible regarding your work area, choosing some of the Metropolitan areas such as Boston-Cambridge-Quincy or Peabody in Massachusetts, West Palm Beach-Boca Raton-Boynton in Florida or New York-White Plains-Wayne, will earn you annual salary of more than $46,300 and up to $59,100. Check out highest employment level by states and recognize California, Florida, Michigan, New York, Texas and Georgia as the states with top numbers in employing dental technicians.

So, when choosing to become a dental technician, bear in mind the important factors of your salary income. The location and state you live in, the amount of years of professional work experience and the necessary skills all reflect on your annual wage. Also, it is beneficial to know that some medical industries hire more and provide higher payments than others. But, since the requirements for dental technicians are slowly, yet steadily growing, so are the possible salary increases also achievable. At the beginning of your career as a dental technician, you will receive minimal wages, but with the years of gaining experience, your salary will sure approve. Be persistent in becoming a professional, choose and achieve certificates or degrees and you will surely be awarded with a nice annual wage.

JOB OUTLOOK

Employment of dental technicians and ophthalmic laboratory technicians is projected to grow up to 10% from 2014 to 2024. The increase in job outlook is faster than the average for all the other occupations. Due to the more cheaper cosmetic prosthetics such as veneers, crowns and bridges, demand for these appliances will surely increase. The employment number of dental technicians,ophthalmic technicians and medical appliance technicians in 2014 was 83,500, the estimated increase by 2024 will reach 92, 200 open jobs. Only dental technicians employment will increase by 11%. Job opportunities for dental laboratory techs will be favorable. Few people see these jobs and those with formal training in a dental laboratory technology program will have the best prospects. Also, many job openings will rise due to the need of replacement of technicians who transfer to other occupations or who leave labor force in general. In addition, the growing and aging population will require more dental products, crowns, bridges and bot full and partial restorations since increasing number of people are retaining their original teeth.

Many dental technicians are employed in dental laboratories, but there are other opportunities to seek job as in private dental offices, hospitals, dental schools and manufacturers. Considering low starting wages, not everyone is prone to start a dental technician career even though the payment increases as the experience is gained. Many of the beginners may work their way up to a supervisory level and may even train new technicians. Some may even own their own laboratory. For anyone considering to become a dental technician, job opportunities are favorable. Whether you choose to work in private or public sector, there are many job openings who offer full-time or part-time work. Browse through search queries according to your state and find the most suitable job offer for you.

In conclusion, deciding to become a dental technician may take from 2 to 4 years of study, depending on your education choice. After the on-the-job training and a few years of gained experience you can either start your career or even improve your chances of hiring by getting a certificate or an Associate degree. The annual wages are more than encouraging and there are numerous sectors and fields from which you can choose to begin with. Collect all the possible information on finishing training, acquiring necessary skills and pursuing the perfect job offer. Inform yourself of upgrading your status as a dental technician which will reflect on your yearly income and achievable benefits and bonuses as well. If you consider yourself to be one of a steady hand, with perfect attention to detail, ability to follow precise instructions and interest in producing dental appliances from various materials, you should definitely consider to become a dental technician. These skills are greatly appreciated and by improving them through courses and programs available, you’re on a right path to advancing to higher positions in this field of dentistry. If you’re abundant in near vision, finger dexterity and eye-hand coordination, you are a perfect candidate for becoming a professional dental laboratory technician. So, start as soon as possible and earn yourself a steady, growing career with good, increasing wage and a bright future. For all the experience gained in this field, you’re rewarded with progress and personal achievement. Just like doctors and surgeons have an important role, so do nurses and technicians. Here is everything you need to know about becoming a dental technician, you’ve read all the information, pros and cons and it’s up to you to decide whether you want to become one or not.

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